1713) Home for Christmas (part one of two)

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Magazine advertisement from 1945, the year World War II ended.

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     Christmas is the time of year to go home.  Or, it is the time for families to get together.  Or, you might say, those two are much the same thing.  When you are with the people you love, the people you’ve known all your life, you feel ‘at home,’ no matter what building or what city you happen to be in.  All the better, of course, if you can be in the house in which you grew up, or, raised your family in.  But that is not what is most important.  “Home is where the heart is,” says the old cliché; and our hearts reach out to those we love at Christmas.  It is the time to go home to them.

     Families can’t always get together for Christmas.  There is the old problem faced by many married couples of which home do we go to this year?  There are those who live too far away and cannot make it home.  There are those who, because of past strife and old wounds, refuse to get together with the family.  And there are those many families that have been torn apart by death, whose loved ones will never join them for another Christmas.  For whatever reason, families drift apart or are torn apart, and at no other time of year is the absence of loved ones more keenly felt than at Christmas.

     But for those who can get together, Christmas is the favorite time of year to go home.  Turn the TV on in December and you see tear-jerking stories of families reunited, at home, for Christmas.  Turn on the radio and you will hear songs of going home for Christmas.  Many of us see relatives we might not see all year except at Christmas.  And we all have our yearly traditional rituals and foods to make us feel even more ‘at home.’

     What is it about “home” that we so look forward to at Christmas?  It is, of course, love, and the opportunity to see loved ones again.  It’s the sense of belonging that comes with being a part of a family.  And it’s the sense of security that comes with being in familiar surroundings.  We go home for Christmas to find all of that, even though we may never give it a thought. 

     Actually, we look for those same things in our whole life, and ask the same things of life itself.  We seek love and a sense of security and a place to belong.  Much of what we do in life can be seen in terms of ‘making a home for ourselves;’ not only establishing a place where our physical needs are met; but having a family and finding friends that we can know and love and share our lives with.  We work to have a place we can call our own, a place of comfort and familiarity and security.  So we go home for Christmas to find a little piece of what we look for in all of life.  We try to find our place in life, that which is right for us; our home.

     There are those for whom thoughts of home bring pleasant memories and warm feelings.  There are also those for whom thoughts of home bring sadness and frustration.  There are those who have no family or home to return to.  There are those who don’t want to return.  There are those who have not yet found their place in the world, and who do not feel at home anywhere.  They have not yet found their place of security and love and comfort.  And, of course, ours is an age of broken homes, and at Christmas the brokenness is felt all the more.

     The thought of “home” does not give rise to perfectly pleasant feelings in all people.  In fact, I would suspect that the thought of “home” gives rise in all of us to a mixture of emotions— emotions of happiness and sadness, feelings of love along with frustrations, responses of gratitude and disappointment, feelings of pride and guilt, times of comfort and times of uncertainty.  It is within our relationships with our families and our search for our “home” that we feel our most intense hopes and our most crushing disappointments.

     Home— our parents’ home, the home we make for ourselves, the home we make for our children, the home we bring friends to— there in that home is the potential for some of life’s greatest joys.  But it is also where we can be hit with life’s hardest blows.

     Our habit of going home for Christmas is one tradition that fits in quite well with the spiritual, God-given, meaning and purpose of Christmas; much better than thoughts of Santa Claus, colored lights, too much food, and too many presents.  Because of government decree, Mary and Joseph made the long journey to Joseph’s home town, Bethlehem.  And Jesus come into the world to show a lost mankind the way home.

     In John 14, Jesus told the disciples about his Father’s house, in which there are many rooms.  He then told them that he would be going on ahead to prepare a place for them in that home; and, that he would one day return to take them, and all who would believe in him, back to be with him and the Father in that home.  In the beautiful parable of the Prodigal Son, the wayward son wastes his life in a far country.  But the happy ending is that he comes home to his Father’s house, and his Father welcomes him with open arms.  That’s the way it works, says Jesus,—”Believe in me and come on home.”

     In John’s wonderful vision of heaven in Revelation (in the best chapter of the whole book; chapter 21), the loud voice from the throne says, “God’s home will be with mankind, and he will live with them.”  There is much of the same in the rest of the New Testament.  The Bible often describes us as ‘sojourners’ here on earth, on our way to our real home in Heaven.  Jesus was born into the world to seek and to save the lost, taking us by the hand to bring us home.  (continued…)